Netball Australia today announced that the Deakin University Australian National League (DUANL) season would not go ahead in 2020, subsequently ending the Capital Darters' inaugural campaign.
The reinvigorated Capital Darters side was poised to play in the DUANL in 2020, as an affiliate to both Sunshine Coast Lightning and Netball ACT.
The Darters' team provided a pathway for Lightning Training Partners and emerging athletes across ACT and the Sunshine Coast region, exposing them to the national competition that sits under the Suncorp Super Netball league.
Lightning's Assistant Coach Chris Voge said the cancellation of the DUANL season in 2020 was a disappointment for clubs and emerging athletes alike.
"Although it is disappointing for the athletes and coaches named in the Darters, the challenges brought about by COVID-19 to the sport and individual wellbeing cannot be ignored," Voge said.
"Sunshine Coast Lightning and Netball ACT will continue to work together this year to develop the athletes in the group and will aim to create training and match opportunities when safe to do so.
"Athletes had been preparing in self isolation over the last two months and will now shift their focus to alternate development opportunities, whether that is as a Training Partner with Lightning or training in preparation for the eventual resumption of state league competitions in QLD and ACT.
"We have an exciting and talented group of Darters athletes selected in the 2020 squad and who I know will continue to stay connected and engaged even without the formal competition."
Darters Coach Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan said the decision by Netball Australia, in consultation with each Member Organisation, was not made lightly.
"The situation continues to change due to COVID-19 and the impact is being felt at all levels," Bock-Jonathan said.
"It wasn't an easy decision for Netball Australia and its Member Organisations and the cancellation of DUANL is disappointing.
"We have an exciting and talented group of players and my hope is that they will seek other opportunities to progress their netball and comeback next year hungry to compete."
Netball Australia said financial pressures and inconsistent restrictions across the state borders led to the decision to cancel the 2020 DUANL season.
The season is played between teams from all six states and two territories and was originally scheduled in line with the original 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season in May.
The governing body stressed that alternate development opportunities would be explored in the coming months, as they continue to invest in Australia's future elite netball talent.